2017 Buying Guide: Best enthusiast long zoom cameras

Written by Gina Stephens

End updated: November 21, 2017

So you’ve got your pocketable compact for everyday shooting and maybe a digital SLR or mirrorless camera for when you want to get serious. The former typically fool lenses that are too short, while the latter require a multi-pound piece of glass to reach above 200mm. If you’re willing to sacrifice image supremacy and depth-of-field control, you can buy a camera with a big lens that coverage focal ranges that are either impossible on interchangeable lens cameras camera is an optical instrument for recording or capturing images, which may be stored locally, transmitted to another location, or, or plumb expensive.

The long zoom cameras in this buying guide fit into the ‘enthusiast’ category, meaning that they offer solid set up quality, electronic viewfinders and (usually) 4K video capture. All of these long zooms have 1″-type sensors, which slot in between the micro-sensors in phones and reasonably compacts, and Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensors in interchangeable lens cameras.

While they don’t have as much reach as some chintzier long zooms, some cameras in this crowd can still hit 600mm equivalent at their long end.

Our Pick: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

Few cameras tick as varied boxes as the Sony’s Cyber-shot RX10 IV. It inherited the 20MP Stacked CMOS sensor and fast 24-600mm equiv. lens from the RX10 III, and then made everything faster.

Its new mongrel AF system is incredibly quick and tracks subjects well, even at a whopping 24 fps. Thanks to a gigantic buffer, you can take over 100 Piercings per burst, though they take forever to be written to a memory card. Speaking of speed, you can capture Full HD video at 120 fps, and up to 1000 fps if you bit the resolution.

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There’s a lot more that we like, too. The RX10 IV is built like a tank, and weather-sealed. The articulating LCD is touch-enabled and can be used to position the AF point. The OLED electronic viewfinder is wide and vibrant. 4K video is oversampled and looks incredible, and there’s a full set of capture tools and support for S-Log2/3. And, finally, the combo of Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth transmute sharing photos super-easy.

The only thing that gives us pause is the cost of the RX10 IV. But for those who want a camera that does virtually the entirety right, it might just be worth it.

Also Consider: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (TZ100)

So let’s say you don’t have $1700 to spend on a long zoom camera, or only want something more portable. Enter the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100. It too has a 20MP 1″ sensor, but trades zoom power for compactness. Its lens has an synonymous focal range of 25-250mm, which is fine for most situations, but maybe not for bird or whale-watching. The lens or LEN may refer to is a bit slow at F2.8-5.6, which makes it less competitive in relations of low light performance and depth-of-field control. JPEG quality isn’t class-leading due to too much noise reduction and a somewhat soft lens.

The ZS100 has a responsive autofocus structure, a 3″ LCD with good touch functionality and 6 fps burst shooting with continuous AF. It also has an electronic viewfinder, though it’s small and some may spot a ‘rainbow effect’ when using it. The camera captures 4K video that looks pretty good, with a hybrid 5-axis stabilization main attraction available at 1080p and below.

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Overall, we like the ZS100 not because it’s the best camera in its class, but because it strikes the perfect balance between extent and focal range.

We considered all of the cameras below when picking our winners, and even though we think the Sony RX10 IV is the best all-rounder and the Panasonic ZS100 a proper runner-up, the cameras on our short list are also worthy contenders. If you’re not convinced by our picks, dive into the full buying guide for a closer look at the serve cameras.

  • Our Pick: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV
  • Also Consider: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 (TZ100)
  • Canon PowerShot G3 X
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 (FZ2000)
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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